Monday, 27 February 2012

Crap Game Corner's demented Cousin: Back To The Future (Electric Dreams, Spectrum - 1985)

Everybody knows the story of Back To The Future: teenager uses time machine, and accidentally scuppers his parents' first meeting, jeapordising his very exsistance. Cue much malarkying about, trying to put the time line back together again, and making sure he exists. It was a very good film. So was the second, and the third. But, the game that was made on the first's plotline......wasn't. Shall we head back to 1985? Or get hopelessly lost on the way?(my money's on the last option!)

Stating off, you have to pick up various objects and use them in the relevant areas. You have distractions, though, in the form of Biff, who knocks you to the ground, and Lorraine, who follows you about everywhere, trying to snog you all the time (ewww!). Encounters with the aforementioned people will not only make your progress a lot slower, but also deplete the photograph of Marty at the bottom of the screen faster than usual.If the photo is totally depleted, Marty ceases to be, and the game is over. The game scrolls either left or right, and you can enter buildings to find the objects you need, but you can only pick up one object at a time, meaning lots of wandering about.

I think thats the game covered. I'm not too sure, though, as the controls suck, the gameplay sucks, the graphics...don't suck (just about), the title screen is actually quite decent but the premise is sound. It's just not executed good enough. To think that the same software house would later bring us ALIENS and the home ports of R-TYPE (Big Trouble in Little China was also crap, but we'll come back to that at a later date. If I can ever fathom how to play the bloody thing!), we get this. It's a travesty to the good BttF name, and makes a mockery of the Spielberg/Zemeckis series of classic movies. Luckily, the two follow up games were better, and more playable. Go play them instead.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Speccy Capers: Olli & LIssa - The Ghost of Shilmore Castle (ISI/Firebird, 1986)

Sir Humphrey isn't too happy. His beloved castle, Shilmore Castle in the highlands of bonnie Scotland, has been bought an American multi-millionaire, Eugene Portcullis the third (Jnr), who wants to take it back with him to the good ol' US of A. Of course, old Sir Humphrey isn't to chuffed at that, what with being a ghost an all and with the castle being his home, he gets his friends Olli and Lissa to help concoct a potion that will render old Humph invisible and scare old Eugene witless, making him leave the castle alone, so Humphrey can do his ghosting business in peace.

There are 8 screens in total, all increasing in difficulty. There are also many nasties who are out to make Olli's life quite hard, as they've taken a fancy to life in the sun, eating hamburgers and surfing. On each of the levels, there is an ingredient needed to make the potion, with Sir Humphrey waiting patiently by the bubbling cooking pot. You have to avoid the nasties, while making your way to the item needed, pick it up and make your way back, whereupon Lissa will give you a smacker as a reward.

I discovered this game quite by accident. It came as a four pack with I, Ball, Thrust and Back To The Future. And I'm glad I did. It's rock hard, but it's also a hidden gem. Plus, it also suffers from Looks-Nothing-Like-The-Cover syndrome. The character you control looks bugger all like the character on the front cover, but rather a blob, with arms, legs and big eyes, all the ingredients a cartoon adventure needs. The title screen has a rather jaunty tune that plays with little intermissions when the lightning strikes, which creates a neat little effect where the screen flashes. All the characters are cute and cartoony, just like Olli, and the game over sequence gives a few chuckles, where Humphrey gives Olli a few slaps around the head with a broom if he fails in his quest. On the whole, graphically, it's all sickingly cute, but looks great. The game does play very fast, and you're up against a very tight time limit on every level, which gets a bit frantic, but it's still fun.

All in all, it's a great little game that was worth every penny of the £1.99 asking price back in the day, and it's worth a play even today. It provides a challenge, looks great and sounds just as good. Recommended.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Tuesday Musing: Are Todays Games Too Easy?

Back in the days of Ye Olde Spectrume, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad 464....e, you got lots of bang for your buck. Yes, the graphics might not have been up to scratch of today's graphical mastepieces, but the gameplay engrossed you, and it even challenged you. Taking away one of your precious 3 lives willy nilly meant learning from your mistakes, as another 2 slips meant back to the first level, even if you got all the way to the end of the game, as it's no continues for you, my lad!

But, thats the thing. Even though some games had one (very) huge area to explore, the gameplay was challenging enough to keep you playing until the small hours. Take Super Robin Hood on the humble micros. Yes, there was the huge castle to explore which meant just the one level, but death lurked around every corner, waiting to zap away some of your precious energy, and every screen was a challenge, and the castle WAS huge. Lots of enemies, keys to find, lifts to navigate and moving floors that you HAD to walk with all added up to to a very engrossing, and tough, game. Today's gamer has Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3. Yes, the game has either single player or multiplayer, but the single player gives no challenge. Yes, you CAN die multiple times, but you can still keep going with what seems to be infinite lives, the very thing we wanted back in the 80's. It just means that you will eventually get to the end, but there's no hard work involved. It seems to be that what we eventually get, isn't really what we want. I mean, yes, I do play games from today, and I enjoy them, but I feel the challenge that once hit me tenfold has gone.

Another example is Julian Gallop's CHAOS. A turn based RPG, you cast your spells and guided your hero, while watching your back at every turn as one slip could mean certain doom for your wizardy bloke, and means starting all over again. Here's the thing: there's no save option. Once you die, thats it. In a modern game, like Neverwinter Nights, once you die, you have the option of continuing, meaning that you can just plow through it in no time (if you're a very avid gamer). Whereas games like CHAOS, once you die, you could try playing it a different way, making the game seem more interesting. You can argue that 'you can just start another game in RPG GAME X, and play as a different character', but thats not the point. The point is, is that instead of offering players just 2, or even 3 continues with which to complete the game, they're just saying 'don't worry about continues, they don't exist. You'll just respawn!'

And that's the thing. You can just keep respawning until you get to the end, crushing the challenge that was put before you like a paper cup. The challenge back then was can I make it past the first level, with my last life intact. One last thing is difficulty levels. This I do find a great help for people just starting out playing a particular game, if got right. Call of Duty, again, is a prime example of this. Modern Warfare was good, but on Veteran, it wasn't tough enough. World at War was also good, but TOO tough on Veteran. Getting the difficulty level right something many developers can't do. But when they can (FIFA), it makes the game good. But thats one thing the retro games don't have, but you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way?

But what do you think? Have your say in the comment boxes below.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Crap Game Corner Cometh!: Miami Vice (Spectrum, 1986 - Ocean Software)

Yes, it's that time again. Where TV licenses and crap ideas cometh together to create an abomination the likes of which even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't handle. And this time, it's personal!
Well, at least the advert looks awesome.

Miami Vice started in 1984. It centered on the exploits of two cops: James 'Sonny' Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. Together, they come against drug lords, pimps who are out of their depths, and wrong doings in jail, with a few car chases and gun fights along the way. It ran until it's demise in 1989 due to falling ratings, and some rather shoddy storylines (alien abductions, anyone?). Still, at least the first three seasons were great. Ocean seemed to pick up on this, and what a surprise, made a game of it for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC464. But, it didn't turn out to be the gun totting, car chasing bang-bang extravaganza it was meant to be. Quite the opposite in fact.
One of the most plainest loading screens I've ever seen. oh, the humanity!

To start with, it just looks crap. Yeah, I know, the home micros were as powerful as a unplugged microwave, but were capable of awesome graphics if pushed. This game isn't an example of awesome graphics. They're just...just...well, crap. The streets don't look like Miami, but just look the same as each other. And what's going on with the rather ugly, and hard to understand status bar at the bottom? Plus, why does the car look so sodding stupid. It looks like it's been designed after a crap looking bullet. So far, so rubbish.
Miami. In all it's 8bit...erm...glory. Are those supposed to be cars?

But wait, that's not all. It also plays like total arse as well! Your car steers with the gracefulness of a classic piano, and driving around is really tedious. So tedious in fact, that should bore you to tears within, say, 5 minutes. The gameplay consists of driving to the correct location to stake out the location at the correct time, to catch the scumbag you're tailing in the act. Miss the target time, and you have to wait a very long time for it to happen again. Once more, all too tedious.
What the game SHOULD have been!

Oh, Ocean. What did you do there? You dropped the ball on what could have been a rather spiffing conversion of the definitive 80's cop show. But, instead, it's a lackluster affair that doesn't deliver the bang you're after. More a sort of whimper with a small crackle following it. Play Wizball instead.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Classic Game: Streets of Rage II (Sega, 1993)

When Final Fight burst on to the scene in 1989, Capcom had a winner on their hands. Originally envisioned as a sequel to Street Fighter, it quickly evolved into one of the best side scrolling brawlers ever made. Sega wanted a bit of this pie, and so made it's answer in Streets of Rage a mere 2 years later. With its great music, intense action and good looking graphics, it became a hit, and so Sega being Sega, decided to make a sequel the next year, building on it's large fan base. Streets of Rage 2 picks up a year after the events of SoR. Adam, Blaze and Axel go their separate ways, until Adam is kidnapped by Mr.X's henchmen, leaving Axel and Blaze to go and rescue their friend. Joining them on their head splitting, groin kicking, Grand Upper throwing rampage is Adam's kid brother Eddie "Skate" Hunter and the wrestler Max Thunder.

First up, the graphics have gone through a major overhaul. They are larger and more detailed than the original. Evey character has facial responses when ever they are hit, or when they throw a punch. Even now, it still looks a gorgeous game some 20 years after it's original release (bloody hell, has it really been that long??). The levels are varied, including a fight on an uncompleted bridge, a theme park (which bares a background that looks suspiciously like Disneyworld!), a boat and a bar with smash-able objects. The enemies are varied as well, with one of the thugs making a comeback from SoR.

Gameplay-wise, it plays exactly the same as its predecessor, with punches, kicks, Grand Uppers, flying kicks and Punch Flurries being thrown about willy nilly. It has also been made a bit harder as well, and its noticable from level 3 (especially when you have to fight the boxer on the boat). But, it doesn't matter if it's harder, because it still plays like a dream. The controls are quite responsive, and if you press the punch button fast enough while plying as Axel, you'll do a higher kick after the original combo. The music has also been upgraded as well, and is easily Yuzo Koshiro best work, which will have you tapping your toes while playing.

All in all, the best of the series. It's more of challenge, it looks and sounds awesome and plays like a dream.